Thursday, April 28, 2011

Juicy Chicken Thighs

Dear Jess,

Easter was amazing. Very busy. It was the beginning of my 30 Day Yoga Challenge. So with that, plus all the extra family get-togethers and what-not, it was very crammed.

As you know, Bill is home for the week. He has asked me to tutor him in culinary ways. Now, I don't usually get opportunities to teach Bill anything... seeing how he is a genius... so when the rare opportunity presents itself, I jump right in. Last night was the night. He picked me up from work, and we proceeded to the grocery store. I showed him where to find everything he would need to make a really yummy Greek Salad.

I have had this Chicken Thigh recipe on my 'want-to-make' list for about 2 months. It claimed to be easy, and it looked pretty straight forward, so I decided to add it to our menu. This was a wise choice. Bill says he is going to adopt it as his 'signature dish.' All the spices are regular pantry items (for me). If they are not for you, I suggest you boogie down to the store and pick some up immediately!

Greek Salad
1 head iceburg lettuce
2 tomatoes, gutted and diced
1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 small cucumber, diced
1/2 large red pepper, diced
feta cheese
1 part lemon juice
2 parts olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs
From Cooking Light
(Serves 4)
2 tsps garlic powder
2 tsps chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray
6 tbsps honey
2 tsps cider vinegar

1. Preheat broiler. Combine first 6 spice ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.
2. Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush other side with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

I hope to have time this weekend to get on the Esther Study. I'm sorry it is taking me so long to get caught up! 

I hope all is well. 


Monday, April 25, 2011

An American Delicacy

Dear Sally,

How was Easter with the family? I spent most of the weekend in Bradford with the Brickell clan and my parents were in Ottawa. Apparently my brother bought a house on Saturday so my parents went to help with the process.

On Sunday Jesse and I just needed some alone time away from all the bustle so we came
home to my place and made his favorite Ohio treat, Puppy Chow. I will warn you that this should probably be featured in the 'This is Why You're Fat" book but it is apparently delicious.

I can't wait to see you on the 13th!


Puppy Chow
1/2 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 box Crispix cereal
1 pound icing sugar

Melt butter, peanut butter and chocolate in a saucepan. Pour cereal into a large bowl and pour chocolate mixture over. Stir until all pieces are well covered. Divide into two large ziplock bags and pour 1 1/2 cups sugar into each. SHAKE! When all the pieces are covered with powdered sugar place the bags in the fridge to cool. Leave in the freezer and enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Winter Stew in April

Hi Sally,

It was SO good to see you on Tuesday and I am very excited for Esther. Just reading the introduction made me so happy! But now for food. As we all know it has been cold lately . . . much too cold. There is nothing better than a warm rich stew to take away the chills from April rain so I rummaged through the books and found a delicious recipe in Eat Shrink & Be Merry.

It took just over an hour but I have to tell you that it was totally worth it! The entire apartment was filled with a delicious aroma of savory beef, vegetables and a rich creamy broth. I also baked rosemary biscuits and made mashed potatoes. Might I just point out that I ate a salad and that this meal was really for Jesse. That being said, it was still a pleasure to be cooking in the kitchen again.

I bought all the ingredients for those yummy looking burritos so they will be the next thing I make for sure.

Seeing you for an hour or so is great but I think we should work on hanging out for a little longer next time :) Love ya!


Just Stew It!
From Eat Shrink & Be Merry
2 lbs stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp herbs de provence (I didn't have this so I used Montreal Steak Spice which seemed to work)
2 cups beef broth
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt and pepper
2 cups chopped carrots
1/2 light sour cream (I used plain yogurt)
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup frozen peas

1. Trim beef of fat and sprinkle with flour. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large non-stick pot over medium-high heat. Add half the beef cubes and cook until lightly browned. Remove from the pot and set aside. Repeat process with remaining 1 tsp olive oil and beef cubes.

2. Return all beef cubes to pot. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Cook and stir until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs. Cook 1 more minute. Add broth, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Add carrots and simmer 20 minutes more.

3. Combine sour cream and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to stew along with green peas. Mix well.

Rosemary Biscuits
Modified from The Joy of Cooking
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp cold butter
3/4 cup cold milk
pinch of salt
1 tsp crushed, dried rosemary

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Grate in cold butter and mix with dry ingredients. Slowly add the milk while mixing with a fork. Bring together carefully into a ball and knead for about 30 seconds. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut out into circles.
Bake in a 450 oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Love Burritos

Dear Jess,

You are amazing. I miss you.

Now, as you know, I have a love of Mexican Food. Love. So, when my friend posted a recipe for refried beans that was supposed to take 10 minutes or less, I couldn't wait to try it!

We tried this to use inside burritos. My friend used white beans (which are very pretty), but I went a little more traditional... or so I thought. I used one can of Kidney Beans and one can of Black Beans. I knew they would taste delicious, because... well they just are delicious. What I didn't expect (but was thrilled to discover) was the mixture turning a vibrant purple! When put on a tortilla with some brown rice, freshly homemade guacamole, hot peppers and salsa, it looked so full of flavor and nutrients. (I also topped with some fresh spinach, but you won't see this in the pictures.) We ate these for dinner 3 nights in a row. Even as leftovers, they're so yummy!

*note: We couldn't find Pepper Jack Cheese in our grocery store, so we used Jalapeno Jack which worked wonderfully.

We will be making these again for sure!

We usually use whole grain tortillas, but we didn't have any this time...
Limey Beans
From Everything Beans Ebook
3 1/2 cups cooked beans (I used 2 tins White kidney beans)
olive oil
1 C finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1-3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
3/4 c vegetable broth (or bean broth if you soaked them yourself)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c grated pepper jack or other cheese (optional)
juice and zest of 1 lime

1. Cook onions and cumin over med heat 5 mins in a large sauce pan. Add oregano, garlic and salt.
Stir together cooking another 3 mins. Stir in beans and stock. Mash together until liquid is absorbed.
Remove pan from the heat and add cheese and lime zest and juice.

*add 1/2 tsp of chili powder or some cayenne with the other spices for heat if you like.

I hope things on your end are going well. Things here are still busy, but manageable. My 30 Day Challenge starts on Thursday! Are you going to be home for Easter? Our books have been 'shipped' so we should get them any day!

I love you,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

Dear Jess,

I found these mushrooms on Handle the Heat, and she found them here. These little tasty treats have been on my 'to make' list for quite some time. When my Mom's birthday rolled around, it seemed to be the perfect occasion. They are hearty, a little spicy, and very easy to make. Instead of the Marsala, I used some red wine that I had lying around. It worked wonderfully. These were a big hit!

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
16 extra-large white mushrooms
5 tbsps good olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tbsps marsala wine or medium sherry
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 oz mascrapone cheese, preferably from Italy
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2 tbsps minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala. Set aside.

3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it's completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, Cool slightly.

5. Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.

I can't wait to see you! I hope all is going well, and you are finding lots of little adventures to keep things exciting.

I love you,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Woah... Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

Dear Jess,

All I can say is: 'Woah! How did this happen?!' I will tell you:

My friend who writes a blog posted a link on a mutual friend's facebook wall. I took one look at it and thought 'I have to make it.' In order to commit to this decision, I also forwarded the link to Jason, who also could only say 'woah'.

Now, as you know, I do not bake. I cook. Baking is for my sister. My hat goes off to her every time her pastry comes out perfect, and her cakes and cupcakes are cheerfully perky and perfectly moist. Now and then however, I go out on a limb and try something in the baking genre. (Navajo Flatbreads, Lemon Yogurt Loaf, cookies, and a few other treats.) This is my greatest baking adventure yet.

It all started on Saturday night. Jason had worked a long day, and I had an amazing yoga class in the morning, so my brain was extremely zen. We picked up the ingredients, and I started to put things together. Now... as usual... I made a few mistakes. The reason I cook, is because it's easy(er) to bounce back from little mistakes such as: putting things in at the wrong time, heating things or cooling things too soon/late, substituting ingredients, etc. This is not so with baking. Baking is a precise science.  This is why I failed at my first attempt. Not only did I not let my eggs warm to room temperature, I also didn't wear my glasses while measureing 1/3 of a cup of whole milk, and instead did 1/8 of a cup only to find out after I had tried to mix everything. I finished my first batch of dry, flaky dough, only to decide to throw it out.

Round two. I didn't have enough flour. Jason (being the amazing boyfriend he is,) ran out to the store to get more. This time it went much better. I put the right amount of milk in, my eggs were at room temperature, and my dough came out perfectly! I was so excited, that I couldn't stop smiling and giggling for the rest of the night.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Makes: one 9x5x3-inch loaf

For the Dough:
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

1. In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside.
2. Whisk together eggs and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F.
4. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be sticky.  That’s just right.
5. Place the dough is a large,  greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  *The dough can be risen until doubled in size, then refrigerated overnight for use in the morning.  If you’re using this method, just let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes before following the roll-out directions below.
While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  
6. Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned.  Set aside.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch  loaf pan.  Set that aside too.
7. Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long.  If you can’t get the dough to 20-inches long… that’s okay.  Just roll it as large as the dough will go.  Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.  It might seem like a lot of sugar.  Seriously?  Just go for it.
8. Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again.  You’ll have six stacks of six squares.  Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book.  Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
9. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown.  The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw.  A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.
10. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.   Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto  a clean board.  Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the  upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

I really like this recipe, because if you want, you can make the dough the night before, and keep it in the fridge until it's time to assemble. This is what I will do next time, because we didn't finish making this until 10:15pm due to the time needed for everything to rise and set. But I will be making this again. And again. And again.

So Much Love,